This Bruins team had a hot start when the season started and carried it throughout February. Suddenly the calendar turned and everyone talked about how March was going to be a meat grinder. 17 games in 31 days (before snow storms, etc) and it would prove if this team was a contender or a pretender. Now we're at the end of the regular season and this team is still fighting for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
That alone blows my mind because they've been fucking trash. From the top down, this organization has been ass this season. I guess we can start at the trade deadline. Acquiring Jaromir Jagr was the right move, obviously. The Bruins gave up (virtually) nothing to acquire Jagr and he's been the best player on this team. There's no denying it and there's no one you can make an argument for who has even been close to his caliber other than Tuukka Rask.
Even though the Bruins acquired Jagr, Chiarelli didn't address every hole in the Bruins armor. Their biggest need was a defensemen. The numbers tell you that Boston is an excellent defensive team. They're currently third in the NHL in goals against per game with 2.20. This includes last night's 5 goal debacle against a Flyers teams where Luke Schenn was their top defenseman. While statistically the Bruins are one of the best defensive teams in the NHL, their defensive unit has made tons of mistakes that has caused their goalies to bail them out.
It was noticeable when the Bruins were winning hockey games that there were some defensive issues. That was written on February 1st after the Bruins went 5-1-1 in January. In 7 games, there were multiple defensive lapses which led to Tuukka Rask or Anton Khudobin either having to make an amazing save or were hung our to dry.
How many times have we watched the Bruins defensemen out of position? How many times has defensemen made blind drop passes behind the net only for them to be intercepted and then scored on.
And then there was this:
That incident last night is the perfect example of this Bruins team since March 1st – specifically their defensive group.
After the jump…eh, whatever
Boston is currently 14-11-3 combined in March and April. If you want to break it down by month, Boston is 9-6-2 in March and 5-5-1 in April. While going 9-6-2 in March is decent, the decline in April is scary – especially when you consider the type of opponents they've played. In Boston's five April wins they've beaten:
One of these wins is against a current playoff team and that could soon change because Ottawa is in a free fall with Winnipeg one point behind them in the standings. The five losses in April?
New York Islanders
Out of those five teams, three of them are playoff teams. Is it a short sample? Yes, but right now that's all we have to go on. I can't stand when people complain about sample size when sample size isn't relative to what you're talking about. Should I use statistics about a win/loss record from 2010-2013? No, because it doesn't matter.
But speaking of sample size, this season Boston is 1-5-1 against Montreal and Pittsburgh. If you want to break those numbers down further, Boston is 1-2-1 against the Canadiens and 0-3 against the Penguins. If you look at the boxscore, all seven of those games were one goal games, but let's dig deeper.
February 6, 2013
Bruins win 2-1 over Montreal
Boston down 1-0 after the 1st period and score 2 goals in the 3rd to win.
March 3, 2013
Boston loses 4-3 to Montreal
Boston was up 3-2 and Montreal scores 2 goals in the 3rd to win.
March 12, 2013
Boston loses to Pittsburgh 3-2
After the first period, Boston was up 2-0 and Pittsburgh scored 3 goals in the third to win.
March 17, 2013
Boston loses to Pittsburgh 2-1.
March 27, 2013
Boston loses to Montreal 6-5 in a shootout.
The Bruins were down 2-0 at one point before scoring 4 straight goals (4-2) [First two goal lead]
In the third period, Montreal scored a goal and Boston matched to make it 5-3 [Second 2 goal lead]
Montreal then scores two straight and wins in the shootout
April 6, 2013
Boston loses to Montreal 2-1.
Montreal goes up 2-0 before Boston scores a goal.
April 20, 2013
Boston loses to Pittsburgh 3-2
Boston goes up 1-0.
Pittsburgh scores 3 straight goals before Tyler Seguin scores with 3 seconds left in the game.
So in those 7 games against the two best teams in the Eastern Conference (points wise) – Boston has given up 3 two goal leads, lost 4 games where they had the lead and 3 3rd period leads. So while sample size may be an issue, the way the Bruins have lost these games is scary. At what point am I supposed to poo-poo these games away because of a final score or because the sample size is to small?
I'm not saying Boston can't hang with Pittsburgh or Montreal, I'm saying the way they lost those games should be an alarm for all Bruins fans. I know people want to remain positive, but after last night's "game" in Philadelphia, it's hard. Boston is currently 1-4-1 in their last six games, their only win coming against the worst team in the NHL.
Tom Servo, a very good writer over at Stanley Cup of Chowder tweeted this to me earlier today:
@pezdoy If Tuukka were playing league average, our goal differential would drop to +8, which would land us 7 or 8. No positive team is out
— TomServo42 (@tservo42) April 24, 2013
He's right. For all the people who have killed Tuukka Rask this season for "soft goals" and "not making the timely save", he's a big reason why they're fighting for the Northeast Division. Tuukka Rask posts a 2.00 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. These are good for 4th and 3rd among all NHL goalies and he's the one of two that's played 30+ games of the top 5 overall (Bobrovski is crushing it in Columbus with 36 GP this season).
So without Rask, where are the Bruins? Yeah, bottom of the playoffs and playing either Pittsburgh or Montreal.
This has nothing to do with the team in front of him. If the defense were actually playing the type of game they've played in the past, Rask's number would be even more out of this world than they are right now.
Before I end this, I want to talk about the playoffs and the Bruins ability to "flip the switch". You hear it all the time, Boston being able to "flip the switch" when the playoffs come and they'll dominate. Let's look at the Bruins past playoff performances, starting with the 2008-2009 season when the "Big Bad Bruins" came back to us.
2008-2009: Eliminated in the second round by Carolina
2009-2010: Eliminated in the second round by Philadelphia
2010-2011: Stanley Cup Championship
2011-2012: Eliminated in the first round by Washington
So for everyone who cried sample size, what here leads me to believe that Boston can flip the switch? There was one season where Boston made it out of the second round and they went on the win the Stanley Cup. I'm told not to make a big deal of how a team ends a season because the 2010 Bruins went 3-2-1 in their final six games and won the Stanley Cup, but the 2011-2012 Bruins went 12-7-1 in March and April (and 3-1 in April) and lost in the first round. So what am I lead to believe?
Am I led to believe that because this team is back crawling their way into the playoffs that they're going to "flip the switch" because a Stanley Cup winning team from two years ago basically did the same thing?
I'm not even going to go into the Milan Lucic thing of 5 goals in 32 playoffs games (0 last season) because that can be saved for another post as well.
I just don't believe a team can get into the playoffs and "flip a switch" when they are, literally, crawling into the playoffs. The Bruins are about to play 3 games in 4 nights. It'll be a big test of what this team is made up of, but when you look at the past two months – what is there to be positive about?